A Thanksgiving to Forget. Mumbai AttackedTweet
It has undoubtedly been the most difficult Thanksgiving for me with the Mumbai terrorist attacks starting virtually the moment my holiday began (around 2:00pm EST on Wednesday). Having spent several years in Mumbai as a child, I know both the hotels that were attacked rather well. I used to visit them often and I would drive past the Oberoi on my way to school every morning.
But closer to home an old friend of my parents (who incidentally was at my wedding this January) was dining at the Taj Hotel when the terrorists attacked. His wife was able to escape but he was marched up to the 18th floor of the hotel by the terrorists and later shot. Yesterday, my mother attended the funeral of a fellow journalist who also died. All in all a horrible, tragic few days. And I can't begin to imagine how it must be for the families who were directly affected.
Nevertheless, I've been impressed by the courageous citizen journalism that kept the world abreast about the crisis as it unfolded hour by hour and minute by minute. It was another example of ordinary people using social technologies to get the word out, give each other faith, provide needed information when the authorities weren't communicating and help save lives too. Twitter, Flickr, SMS and the blogs were just some of the social technologies used as people communicated with the hotel guests holed up in their rooms telling them when to escape out of the buildings. In fact, 80 messages were being sent to Twitter every five seconds about the attacks. Twitter also reported that there was still gunfire inside the Taj Mahal hotel long after the mainstream media had said it was finished.
Sure in some cases sensitive information may have been transmitted but the social technologies and social media more broadly once again proved how central and useful it can be in times of crisis. But to me the most important benefit is that social media allows our all our ordinary voices to be heard loud and clear. The most encouraging and dynamic response to the terrorist attacks that I've come across is that of the Mumbai Twitter users. They decided to meet for beer at Leopold Cafe (one of the targets) yesterday. Why? Because they wanted to stand up defiantly and show the terrorists that nothing will stop them from living their lives the way they want to. How were they able to organize this so quickly? By using Twitter.
Nothing is going to lessen the pain of the tragedy for anyone even remotely connected to it. But we can all draw strength from the courage of others and recognize that as ordinary individuals that may get caught in the midst of events that are well beyond our control, there are social technologies that can help today in ways that we never thought possible even fifteen years ago.
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